Written by MaiLynn Stormon-Trinh – Communications Coordinator

I am currently packing my bags, getting visas sorted, and all that not-so-exciting stuff that happens before a big, very-exciting trip.  I’m going to Vietnam, where I’ll be doing some research on future partnerships for The Branch Foundation.

Vietnam’s historical statistics read similarly to many of its surrounding South-East Asian countries.  After decades of occupation and colonization, the war between the Communist North and the American-backed South literally tore the land in two.   Over one million Vietnamese soldiers were killed in the war along with four million civilians; 10% of the country’s population was killed or injured.

Less than 10 years after the end of the war, the Vietnamese Communist Party massively restructured their policies to support Doi Moi (economic reform).  Although it is still a Communist led country, Vietnam embraced the market. Doi Moi proved to be a huge success.  Today, Vietnam is one the world’s fastest growing economies and has been dubbed as a “development success story” by the World Bank.  Although a majority of Vietnam is still agriculturally based, rapid industrialization and urbanization have contributed to significant reduction of poverty in one the world’s once poorest countries. Despite all of Vietnam’s achievements, it now faces issues often encountered by countries that develop so quickly.  Pollution and improperly treated waste are rampant problems.  Rising sea levels and litter threaten the Mekong River and other natural resources that so many Vietnamese people rely on for their income.   Domestic electricity usage is poised to explode over the next decade.  The lack of an educational structure has meant that many Vietnamese nationals are not skilled enough to work for the growing number of international businesses that have expanded into the country.

Also, Vietnam’s successful urbanization hasn’t meant any real reduction in poverty in rural areas. Poverty, malnutrition rates, and lower education enrollment rates are still a reality for many rural Vietnamese and, in particular, the ethnic minorities living in the country.  Almost all ethnic minority groups live in remote, rural areas and rely heavily on the land, making it difficult for them to access vital forestry resources they need for stable income and enterprise development.  The stark reality is that poverty is becoming an issue of ethnicity.

That being said, there is no better time for The Branch Foundation to start forming local partnerships in Vietnam.   Local organisations and communities have recently been more involved in addressing and working towards solutions for the issues they face.  But areas that are living “off the grid” have a distinct disadvantage when it comes to the important resources and support they need to achieve their objectives.  I am excited to lay the groundwork for what I hope is the beginning of beautiful, new relationships between Vietnamese communities that have little access to external resources and The Branch Foundation supporters.